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Coronavirus: Covid-19 mortality among cancer patients was 16.5%

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(APA/Vienna, 18 February 2022) Austria's cancer patients have also been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a new study of hospitals in Vienna, Tyrol and Vorarlberg, mortality among 230 patients with malignant tumours or blood cancers and SARS-CoV-2 infection was 16.5% in a period between mid-March 2020 and early April last year. This emerges from a study published online on Wednesday in Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift (Vienna Clinical Weekly).

The authors of the study come from about half a dozen hospital departments and/or university clinics in Vienna, Feldkirch and Innsbruck that care for patients with cancers (oncology) or blood cancer (haematology). The analysed data came from patients who were actively suffering from cancer or had previously had a cancer diagnosis and had additionally tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 between 13 March 2020 and 6 April 2021. The authors collected data about the cancer and the consequences of Covid-19 within 30 days of a positive test.

The study included a total of 230 cancer patients. 75 had blood cancer, 155 had a malignant tumour. Mortality from Covid-19 was high. The researchers led by Anna Berghoff (Division of Oncology/MedUni Vienna/University Hospital Vienna) as corresponding author wrote about their observations: "After a median observation period of 31 days after testing positive for Covid-19, 38 of the patients (16.5%) had died from it." On average, those who died were older (71.4 years) than those who survived Covid-19 (62.4 years). The study found that risk factors also included generally poorer health and some blood parameters (doi: 10.1007/s00508-022-02006-1).

The extent to which Covid-19 mortality was higher among these cancer patients compared with the general population is indicated by dashboard data from the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES): for people aged 65 - 74, the data indicate a Covid-19 mortality of 2.6% among men and 1.3% among women.

It is not thought that cancer treatments per se are likely to increase a patient’s Covid-19 mortality risk. A correlation with oncological or haematological treatments, which often damage the body's immune defences, could not be proven. However, in 60.6% of the cancer patients, treatment for the oncologic or haematologic disease had to be delayed, either due to the need to quarantine or as a result of hospitalisation for Covid-19. The authors point out that, overall, SARS-CoV-2 mortality among cancer patients in Austria was similar to that in comparable countries.

Service: Vienna Clinical Weekly
 SARS-CoV-2-related mortality and treatment delays for cancer patients in Austria: Findings of a multicentric nationwide study
Julia M Berger, Phillipp Wohlfarth, Oliver Königsbrügge, Hanna A Knaus, Edit Porpaczy, Hannes Kaufmann, Johanna Schreiber, Tatevik Mrva-Ghukasyan, Thomas Winder, Luciano Severgnini, Dominik Wolf, Verena Petzer, Van Anh Nguyen, Georg Weinlich, Leopold Öhler, Anna Wonnerth, Aurelia Miksovsky, Bert Engelhart, Matthias Preusser, Anna S Berghoff.

doi: 10.1007/s00508-022-02006-1